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Learn how to make your own ladyfingers with this recipe.
Presentation is everything when displaying and serving food, especially when desserts are on the menu. Who can resist reaching for some tempting Italian tiramisu or feasting one’s eyes on a tall glass pedestal bowl filled with luscious layers of English trifle?
Ladyfingers are the key ingredient that makes these desserts extra special. Also known as Italian Savoiardi, boudoir biscuits, sponge or baby fingers, and a host of other names, oval-shaped, biscuit-type cookies are crispy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside.
Legend has it that ladyfingers were invented in the 14th century by the chef of Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy in the region known as the Duchy of Savoy,
located in the western Alps between southern France and northern Italy. It
seems King Charles V of France and his court were visiting the palace, so the Count asked his chef to create something unique for the grand banquet. Little is known about the actual dessert that the chef prepared that night, but enthusiastic comments from the king made them the “official” biscuit from that day on.
Ladyfingers are usually soaked in a sugar syrup, liqueur, coffee, or espresso before being assembled in a particular dish. Besides tiramisu and English trifle, they are a principal part of many other desserts such as Charlotte russe, strawberry shortcake, chocolate mousse cake, parfaits, and tortes. Typically, fruits and jam are layered with the ladyfingers with egg custard or gelatin and whipped cream. Many recipes call for lining a bowl with upright ladyfingers, creating a circle of sponge around the interior ingredients, resulting in a tempting and beautiful sight at the dinner table.
Besides playing an important role in desserts, ladyfingers are a tasty treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Some people like to dust them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or cinnamon. Often, parents give plain cookies to infants, being soft enough for teething, yet firm enough not to fall apart, and easy for little hands to grasp. When making tiramisu or other recipes calling for layered ladyfingers, it’s best to leave them out at room temperature for a while, letting them get a bit stale so they can better absorb any liquids without getting soggy.
Homemade or Store-bought?
Conveniently speaking, it’s much easier to stop by the grocery store and purchase a package of ladyfingers instead of baking a batch at home. One can usually find them in the aisle with flour and sugar, or on the shelves with the cookies, or displayed in the bakery department.
It’s really quite easy making ladyfingers with a few simple ingredients. After baking and cooling, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen for up to two months. Thaw at room temperature before eating.
Eggs are essential for light and airy ladyfingers. Some individuals insist on whipping the whites and yolks separately, while others feel it’s perfectly fine to mix whole eggs together. Some recipes call for three eggs, while others add four to six eggs. It’s wise to compare various recipes.
As always, each cook has a different slant on things; it’s up to the individual.
Thanks to YouTube videos online, it’s convenient to watch different step-by-step instructions. This recipe is simply one version to try.
How to Make Ladyfingers
- 4 large eggs, separated — room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ lemon zest —optional
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract — optional
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Powdered sugar for dusting (some recipes call for ½ teaspoon baking powder — optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (Some recipes call for temperatures of 375 or 400 degrees)
- Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Prepare a large pastry bag with a plain ½ round tube. A hint for filling the pastry bag: Invert the bag in a tall drinking glass. This frees up one’s hands when spooning the batter into the opening.
- Separate the eggs into two bowls. Beat the whites on medium with an electric mixer until soft peaks start to form. Add two tablespoons of sugar
- and continue beating until stiff and glossy. The secret to perfect ladyfingers is air! This creates a super light and spongy batter, resulting in a crisp exterior and spongy interior.
- Beat the egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. The yolks can be whisked by hand.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, taking care not to deflate
- all the air.
- Sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt (and baking powder if used) over the egg batter.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients until incorporated into the batter.
- Fill the pastry bag and pipe the batter in 3½ inch long lines about an inch apart. When piping, hold the pastry bag at a 45-degree angle and apply pressure while piping, then stop squeezing before reaching the end of each ladyfinger. Simply lift the bag straight up to break the “tail” of batter.
- Before baking, dust the ladyfingers with powdered sugar. This helps the sponge cakes spread less and rise more. Some individuals sprinkle granulated sugar instead on the batch before baking and then dust with powdered sugar when cooled.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until just golden, depending on one’s oven.
CAPPY TOSETTI lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her three rescue dogs that help her with Happy with Cappy Pet Sitting. She’s putting things in
motion to someday crisscross the country in a vintage travel trailer visiting draft horse and goat farms. firstname.lastname@example.org